RIP 2010-11 Season
Realistically, the Blues 2010-11 playoff push has been pretty much dead in the water since the immensely frustrating two-game series with the Minnesota Wild. Following their loss in Washington, the Blues chances of making the playoffs have shrunk to just 1%, as reported by SportsClubStats.com. With that fact in mind, it's time to officially bury the team's 2010-11 campaign.
This post has been in the works for a couple weeks. I was holding off until the percentage dipped to 1% or lower, and thanks to the Capitals, here we are. It's time to look back at what went wrong, look forward to the few games remain and look even further ahead to the much brighter 2011-12 season.
What Went Wrong
Jaroslav Halak was everything we hoped he would be ... for the first couple weeks of the season. Then reality set in. If you check out Halak's career averages
during the regular season, his numbers aren't too far off from the 2.63 GAA and .910 SV% he currently maintains - and that's worrisome. Halak will have an opportunity to at least end his season on a bright note and give fans something to look forward to in 2011-12.
Is it possible Montreal knew something the league didn't, in choosing to deal Halak and retain Carey Price? The jury is still out, but the Blues obviously need Halak to be much, much better in the future.
Behind Halak, Ty Conklin wasn't any better. By a considerable amount, this season has been Conklin's absolute worst since his abbreviated 2006-07 year where he split time between Buffalo and Columbus. As signaled by the team placing him on waivers, this will be Conklin's last year with the Blues - bring on backup Ben Bishop.
Every team in the league has to deal with injuries. The Blues aren't any different and the fans shouldn't cut them any slack for it. Good teams have to deal with injuries too, but are able to overcome them through depth and determination - two areas the Blues are weak in.
David Perron's never-ending concussion symptoms, TJ Oshie's broken ankle, Andy McDonald's concussion ... I could go on, but you're probably well aware of the missed time by vital skaters.
3. Defensive Lapses
How often did we see an opponent waltz right in front of the net and fire home a fairly uncontested shot? The Blues have struggled on defense this season and have been caught watching/standing as the other team dictates the play. Ironically, the Blues are allowing fewer shots in each game, 28.3 shots-per-game this season compared to last year's 30.2, but the quality of the shots plays a huge factor.
With some time left in the regular season, the Blues are allowing 2.88 goals-per-game. That's an increase from the 2.66 they averaged last season.
4. The Penalty-Kill
When Mike Weaver left the Blues, apparently the team's penalty-kill went with it.
Last season: 86.8% on the PK
This season: 81.1% on the PK
There are still enough games left where the 2010-11 percentage is sure to change, but the current difference of 5.7% has been noticeable. The Blues often look unorganized and sloppy in their attempt to kill the penalty off and obviously miss the leadership and approach Mike Weaver brought to the team.
Unfortunately, the Blues still have to play the rest of their games even though the hopes of the playoffs are a now becoming just a memory. At this point, the only thing the Blues can do is hope to finish off the year with some sense of dignity and pride.
Jaroslav Halak should return and will have a chance to work on his approach in net - something that obviously has been flawed nearly all year.
We all know David Perron is eager to return to the ice, but at this stage, what sense does it make to try and get him back into an NHL game this season? The timetable concerning Perron's return is still a mystery, but at this point, I'd be perfectly fine with the Blues shutting him down for the season. If he is ever cleared for skating, let him skate and practice with the team, but please don't rush him back for any NHL action and let him risk a setback in a season that's already over.
That being said, I hope we don't see any major injuries this late in the year now that the Blues are all but completely mathematically eliminated. I don't want to see completely lackadaisical performances, but hoping the Hockey Gods will at least let the Blues escape this season with the current damage and no further casualties.
Looking Forward to 2011-12
As a fan supporting a losing club, you have to look forward and find the bright spots.
Hopefully, the Blues will find and finalize their ownership/investors soon. They've made their payroll about as low as they can and have made the franchise a perfect opportunity for an investor(s) to buy low.
Assuming (fingers crossed) that this situation ever gets resolved, it could make for a lot of fun in the free agent market. After all, the Blues are currently on the floor with their current salaries and should have plenty of wiggle room to bring in new faces. Now if only they'd get this whole mess figured out ...
There aren't any certainties that we will see Tarasenko with the NHL roster next season, but there certainly seems to be a pretty good possibility, depending what happens this summer. The immensely talented Russian has quick hands and a pretty nifty shot, making him an impressive offensive weapon.
The dud of the 2010-11 season should only improve the odds that Tarasenko will be at least in the United States next season, and will be apart of training camp.
There is something invigorating about seeing a 0-0-0. The possibilities are endless. A fresh start. A time to put the sorrows from last year behind us. After the Blues take on Nashville on April 9th, they immediately can turn the page on the 2010-11 season. Following that game, no matter the result, they can look ahead and relish in the fact they can start anew in the Fall.
This year's trade deadline allowed to the Blues to dump some of the parts the management didn't see fitting into this team's future, which means we should see a more finely tuned product come next season - or at least, that's the idea.
I may be turning the page on this team's playoff chances for this season, but that doesn't mean you or I should stop following them. This team still has plenty of young talent. Talent that can be exciting to watch on a nightly basis.
I'm also excited to see Halak return and interested to see just how well he performs in whatever action he sees before the season wraps. He must be pretty disappointed, coming to a new town and leaving the fans with a pretty unsettled feeling in their stomachs. Maybe he can at least give us some sort of optimism when he returns.
Ben Bishop has already been impressive and has my full nod of confidence to be the backup next season. From here on out, I hope to watch him continue to sharpen his game and continue to become and even better goaltender now that he will be exposed to NHL talent on a regular basis.